Sunday, November 27, 2011

Malaysian Bar's Memorandum on Peaceful Assembly Bill

Thursday, 24 November 2011 04:26pm
The Peaceful Assembly Bill (“the Bill”) was tabled in Parliament for its first reading on 22 November 2011. It must be noted that advance notice was not given

save for speculation in the media that it would be tabled on 24 November 2011. There appears to be unseemly haste in introducing this far-reaching and crucial legislation without adequate public consultation1.

This Bill in replacing the present legislative provision in section 27 of the Police Act 1967, introduced several controversial and objectionable provisions for instance,

1. prohibition of street protests (defined widely as open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes);
2. prohibition of organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of twenty one years;
3. prohibition of participation in peaceful assemblies of children below the age of fifteen years;
4. unduly onerous responsibilities and restrictions on organisers and assemblies; and
5. excessive fines for non-compliance of the Bill.

These restrictive provisions in the Bill stand in stark contrast to the words of the Honourable Prime Minister in his eve of Malaysia Day speech which was widely applauded by the Malaysian Bar (“the Bar”) and Malaysians in the honest belief that there will be real and genuine reforms. The relevant excerpt of the speech is as follows:

“I often opine that long gone is the era in which the government knows everything and claims monopoly over wisdom. …

The Government will also review section 27 of the Police Act 1967, taking into consideration Article 10 of the Federal Constitution regarding freedom of assembly and so as to be in line with international norms on the same matter. … (emphasis added)

The decisions we make today will determine the fate and shape Malaysia as it will be in the future, the homeland that we will pass on to our children and future generations. The question is, are we capable of surpassing and challenging the common suspicion that Malaysians with their diverse backgrounds, varying socioeconomic statuses and political understandings which are typical of human nature, can arrive at a consensus to not bow or surrender to the trappings of hate and distrust which would certainly drag us down into a valley of disgrace. Instead, let us all brave a future filled with hope and nobility together. …

Be confident that it is a strength and not a weakness for us to place our trust in the Malaysian people’s intelligence to make decisions that will shape the path of their own future. …

It is absolutely clear that the steps I just announced are none other than early initiatives of an organised and graceful political transformation. It stands as a crucial and much needed complement to the initiatives of economic transformation and public presentation which the government has outlined and implemented for over two years in the effort to pioneer a modern and progressive nation. …

It is neither too early nor too late, but this is the most suitable and precise time for such major estimations to be made and implemented. Though some parties opine that this is too risky, we will proceed with it for the sake of survival, as it has been fifty years since our nation achieved independence, and and nearly five decades since Malaysia was formed. Thus, we stand at the threshold of a vehicle that speeds towards its destination as a fully developed nation.

In closing, I wish to emphasise that free of any suspicion and doubt, the Malaysia that we all dream of and are in the process of creating is a Malaysia that practices a functional and inclusive democracy where public peace and prosperity is preserved in accordance with the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights.”

The Bar has expressed its view in its Press Release issued on 22 November 20112 and objects to some of the provisions of the Bill3. It recommends that this Bill be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee which would engage in a public consultation process consistent with the Honourable Prime Minister’s promise of “a Malaysia that practices a functional and inclusive democracy”. In addition, the Bar will introduce draft amendments to the Bill which will be ready by Tuesday, 29 November 2011.

This Report seeks to demonstrate that the Bill is not “in line with international norms” by identifying several key differences of the Bill with other jurisdictions' assembly acts. The extracts of Suhakam’s recommendations in its Report on Freedom of Assembly are set out in Annexure 3.

These differences are categorised and summarised as follows:

1. Prohibition of Assembly

The Bar is stunned and strongly objects that “street protest” (which is a form of assembly in motion or procession already legally recognised in section 27 of the Police Act 1967) is prohibited. Such an assembly in motion is permitted in most if not all of the jurisdictions which we would consider as having a model piece of legislation. There have been several street protests which were peaceful in Malaysia, for instance, the Bar’s Walk for Justice in 2007 and the recent Bersih 2.0 rally.

The Bar is also concerned that the wide definition given to “street protest” as provided for under the Bill can and shall be used to curtail assemblies which may fall under the definition.

2. Prohibited Places

The Bill provides for an outright prohibition against an assembly held at any “prohibited place” and within fifty metres from the said prohibited place. No such prohibition appears in other jurisdictions which we consider as having a model piece of legislation.

3. Children's participation in or organisation of assembly

Section 4 of the Bill prohibits a person below the age of twenty one years to organise an assembly and the participation of a child below the age of fifteen years in an assembly other than an assembly specified in the Second Schedule.

The regulation of the participation of children is restrictive and contrary to our international obligations under the Convention of the Right of the Child (“CRC”) where Malaysia is a signatory. On 6 June 2010, Malaysia withdrew its reservations to Articles 1, 13 and 15 of the CRC, thus allowing children "the freedom to have their say, and the right to form associations and assemble peacefully".

Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil had said on the same day that the government would give children the freedom to have their say and the right to form associations and to assemble peacefully. She said the move was in line with the recognition given to children's rights as they would be the future leaders of the nation.

4. Restrictions of Assembly

The Bar acknowledges that in other jurisdictions, restrictions and conditions may be imposed on public assemblies. In the UK, even though the words 'as appear to him necessary to prevent such disorder, damage, disruption or intimidation' are stated in the Act, the police may only impose conditions based on date, time and duration, place and manner. In Finland and Queensland, conditions may be placed on payment of clean-up costs, any inherent environmental factor, and cultural or religious sensitivity.

However, in the Bill, the police can also impose other conditions or restrictions not found in other jurisdictions. Further, the OCPD is given wide discretionary powers to impose any restrictions other than those specifically mentioned above as he deems necessary or expedient.

5. Notification of Assembly

In the UK, notification is not needed for a public assembly. Notification is required for a public procession in which 6 days notice is to be given before the date of the procession. In Queensland, the arranger of an assembly shall notify not less than 5 business days. In Finland, the arranger of an assembly shall notify the local police at least 6 hours before the meeting. The Act further provides for late notification if the arrangement of the meeting does not cause significant disruption to public order.

The notification period of 30 days is unduly long and not in line with international norms. Further, the Bill ignores the possibility of an immediate public assembly or a spontaneous assembly.

6. Powers of the Police

In Finland, the powers of the police are spelt out extensively in the Assembly Act. Section 20 states where necessary, the police may, before or during the event, issue orders or instructions on the arrangement of a public meeting or a public event for the purpose of maintenance of public safety or security; the prevention of damage to health, property or the environment or the reduction of the damage to the environment; the safeguarding of the rights and interests of bystanders; and the ensuring of the free flow of traffic. Furthermore, in sections 4 and 19, it clearly provides for the positive obligations of the police in promoting and safeguarding the exercise of freedom of assembly.

In Queensland, the powers of the police are spelt out in the Police Powers Responsibilities Act 2000, where the police may give directions requiring a person to either leave the regulated place or be within the regulated place for a reasonable time limit or move from a particular location for a specified period of time.

In the UK, the powers of the police to arrest without warrant subject to certain circumstances are stated in sections 12(7) and 14(7) of the Public Order Act 1986. The powers of the police are spelt out clearly and published to the public. The UK Human Rights Act 1998, particularly section 3 requires the police to interpret and apply their powers in a manner which is compatible to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Section 21(2) of the Bill provides that the police officer, in exercising the power to disperse an assembly may use all reasonable force. The lack of public disclosure of the standard operating procedure employed by the police, such as how it handles crowd control or demonstrations evokes distrust in the public as to how it will apply this provision. The extent of the exercise of the police’s reasonable force should be clearly identified. It is also important to establish the positive obligations of the police in promoting and facilitating all peaceful assemblies.

7. Non citizens

In the UK, Queensland and Finland, the legislation that govern public assemblies do not make a distinction between the right accorded to citizens and non citizens. In the Bill, however, is clearly stated that the right to organise or participate in an assembly does not extend to a non citizen. The Bar recognises that Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly by citizens only. However, section 27 of the Police Act does not distinguish between citizens and non citizens. The Bill therefore takes away the right of peaceful assembly from non citizens which was recognised by section 27 of the Police Act.


This Bill is not “in accordance with the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights” as stated in the speech of the Prime Minister.

The Bar is hopeful that the Honourable Prime Minister will now reconsider this Bill and amend it by way of the process of public consultation, to ensure that Malaysia will have a legislation which truly enforces, protects and promotes freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

Dated this 24th day of November 2011.

MTUC adakan perhimpunan desak kerajaan batal pindaan Akta Kerja 2 Dis

KUALA LUMPUR — Kongres Kesatuan Sekerja Malaysia (MTUC) akan mengadakan perhimpunan besar-besaran di Shah Alam, Selangor pada 2 Disember ini — tindakan susulan bagi menggesa Putrajaya agar menarik balik pindaan kontroversial Akta Kerja 1955.

Perhimpunan dua jam itu akan merumuskan pendirian seterusnya dan deklarasi bagi menggesa kerajaan membatalkan peruntukan berkaitan dengan sistem kontrak bagi tenaga kerja.

Pengerusi MTUC Bahagian Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan N. Gopal Kishnam berkata masa dan lokasi telah pun diputuskan semalam.

“Kita memutuskan untuk mengadakan pada hari kerja, selepas waktu kerja di dewan Seksyen 19 Shah Alam,” kata beliau.“Kami memutuskan untuk mengadakan 2 Disember, selepas waktu kerja supaya orang ramai termasuk pemimpin-pemimpin kesatuan boleh berhimpun selepas waktu kerja,” katanya memberi sebab kepada pemilihan tarikh itu.

Sebelum ini beliau berharap agar perhimpunan itu dapat diadakan pada 3 Disember sebagai simbolik kepada dua piket sebelum ini yang berlangsung pada 3 Oktober dan 3 November lalu.

“Kami menjangkakan kehadiran sekitar 3,000 orang, kami juga menjemput pertubuhan dan pemimpin sivil agar sertai perkhimpunan ini… MTUC akan menyampaikan mesej yang jelas mengenai pindaan terbaru membabitkan Akta Kerja ini,” kata beliau lagi.

Majlis Am MTUC telah memutuskan untuk mengadakan tindakan susulan ini, kali ini dipanggil sebagai perhimpunan bagi meneruskan tekanan ke atas kerajaan supaya membatalkan pindaan Akta Kerja khususnya peruntukan berkaitan dengan sistem kontraktor bagi tenaga kerja, Ahad lalu.

Bagaimanapun tarikh khusus dan tempat diputuskan semalam.

Kata beliau, MTUC memutuskan bahawa kerajaan wajar mengambil tindakan membatalkan pindaan undang-undang perburuhan itu.

“Tiada jalan lain kecuali kerajaan menarik balik rang undang-undang ini… pendirian MTUC,” kata beliau awal minggu ini.

Piket pertama diadakan di pekarangan bangunan Parlimen beberapa hari sebelum Rang Undang-undang Kerja (Pindaan) 2011 diluluskan oleh Dewan Rakyat dan piket susulan peringkat nasional secara serentak di 18 lokasi di seluruh negara sebulan kemudian,

Rang undang-undang itu kini menunggu giliran Dewan Negara untuk meluluskannya.

Pada 8 November lalu, susulan piket kedua MTUC, Kementerian Sumber Manusia menegaskan kerajaan tidak bercadang untuk membatalkan peruntukan sistem kontraktor bagi tenaga yang dimasukkan menerusi pindaan Akta Kerja 1955.

Menterinya, Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam berkata, pihaknya tidak bercadang untuk menggugurkan pindaan tersebut walaupun MTUC telah mengadakan piket secara besar-besaran sebagai tanda protes.

Bahkan kata beliau, pihaknya masih lagi membuka pintu perbincangan dengan badan induk kesatuan sekerja berkenaan supaya mereka mendapat gambaran jelas tentang peruntukan baru itu.

MTUC, juga sebelum ini berkata, mahu membawa perkara berkenaan kepada pengetahuan Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Ia telah mengadakan piket sebelum ini kerana tidak puas hati dengan pindaan yang membolehkan kewujudan sistem kontraktor tenaga kerja secara sah di negara ini.

Ia mendakwa sistem tersebut akan membuatkan seseorang pekerja bekerja untuk kontraktor sebagai majikan utama, menyebabkan majikan utama seperti syarikat atau organisasi yang menggunakan pekerja-pekerja terbabit tidak mempunyai tanggungjawab secara terus menjaga kebajikan pekerja.